Small picture of Donizetti





A Good Norma does not lie *

by Fulvio Stefano Lo Presti, February 2005

Comments on a performance of Bellini's Norma at the Teatro delle Muse, Ancona, December 4, 2004. Photographs courtesy of the Teatro delle Muse, Ancona


 Norma is possibly the most popular and most often revived opera seria from Italian primo Ottocento, in close competition with Lucia di Lammermoor,  which actually is its only redoubtable challenger. However, the frequency of productions of Norma go pretty-often hand-in-hand with either unsatisfying or low profile performances, let alone the "inventive" mises en scène contrived by directors whose mission - so they believe - is to rescue opera from decline and loss of appeal. Among the number of Normas I have attended in about half a century in several European countries two at least were memorable, a few honourable,  and the rest - that is the large majority, mediocre if not frustrating.  Being a fellow citizen of Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835)  I cannot list any really distinguished production having taken place in the composer's Catania after those epics in the Fifties: the two Normas -  with Maria Callas between 1950 and 1951 and the one with Anita Cerquetti in 1956 (I was lucky enough, as a young boy, to attend the latter).



Carmela Remigio (Adalgisa), Fiorenza Cedolins (Norma)


Bellini's magnificent, impressive Norma  (1831) is probably one of the more convincing examples of that supreme Romanticism of primo Ottocento where the "song" - to quote David Kimbell - "had this mysterious, irrational power, a magic beyond the understanding of words". **  Thats just what makes every project to stage Norma the more demanding.  even for big opera houses.  Since its brand-new reopening, the attractively restored Teatro delle Muse, in the "provincial" capital of Ancona,  the acorn has grown some tall oaks such  as Idomeneo and Lucia di Lammermoor  and now Norma.

The direction of Hugo De Ana  here settles the action in a vague early 19th century France,  hinted at by the Neoclassic majestic sets à la Jacques-Louis David while the vibrancy of the deployments and the light-flashes echoed Eugène Delacroix. The conducting of the proficient Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana was entrusted to the competent hands of Fabrizio Maria Carminati, who seems to know this opera by heart.  At the same time that Dynamic was issuing a CD  of the Martina Franca Norma (1977) with Grace Bumbry and Lella Cuberli,  the Teatro delle Muse was offering  its audience an authentic Norma with two sopranos as Bellini had conceived it. 


Norma and children

Fiorenza Cedolins (Norma)


Fiorenza Cedolins, as the tragic Bellinian priestess, unmistakably  possesses -  even at such a young age - all the high quality standards which such a tremendous role requires,  her Norma displayes a robust volume and richness à la Cerquetti,  and an intelligence and incisiveness worthy of Callas to be added to a passion and expression skill all of her own.  On hearing her poignant "Deh! non volerli vittime", I didn't regret my favourite Norma: Joan Sutherland.  Considering her career Cedolins so far, singing a great deal of Verdi and a lot of Puccini,  I would offer the friendly suggestion that she turns to  Donizetti (Anna Bolena, Lucrezia Borgia or, why not? Parisina) *** as well as further Bellinian roles (La Straniera, Beatrice Di Tenda)  which could only enrich her palette.  She made a well-matched partner and  good timbre-contrast with the fresh and captivating Adalgisa of Carmela Remigio.  As Pollione, third element in the romantic triangle, the experienced Vincenzo La Scola managed vocally and dramatically to rise to the challenge.   Andrea Papi, although apparently not fighting- fit, defended bravely his Oroveso  while Katarina Nikolic (Clotilde) and Giancarlo Pavan (Flavio) as well as the Coro Lirico Marchigiano concurred meritoriously in this very successful production. 


Vincenzo La Scola (Pollione),  Fiorenza Cedolins (Norma), Carmela Remigio (Adalgisa)




 * "Norma non mente!" (NORMA, Act 2, ultima)

 ** David Kimbell, ITALIAN OPERA, Cambridge 1991, p. 532

 *** It seems she has been proposed to sing Anna Bolena.





Page initially published in  2005